Busted: Popular Myths about Carpet Cleaning

Over the years, I’ve heard many myths about proper carpet cleaning that, frankly, make me shudder. Some may have had some historical basis in fact, but those days are as much a thing of the past as $2.00 a gallon gas. Join me as I bust the top five carpet cleaning myths. Note: No carpets were harmed in the making of this post.

Myth #1: Method-Schmethod, One Way is Just as Good as the Next

As a carpet cleaning specialist, The Specialist, for over 15 years, I call “Foul!” There are almost as many methods for cleaning carpets on the market as there are carpets to be cleaned. The “dry cleaning” method is a really popular one, but is one of the worst things you could do to your carpet. This method includes dry foam, powders, carbonation, buffing and shampooing. Your carpet is mostly dry when you’re done, but often these chemicals leave a residue that attracts new dirt.

Most carpet manufacturers tell people to use a truck-mounted hot water extraction system, just like the one I use, to comply with warranty requirements. While this method may have left carpet too wet (an invitation to mold) “back in the day,” the improved technology used today leaves your carpet drier than the “dry cleaning” methods. And, if you follow my post-cleaning instructions, your carpet will be fully dry in no time.

Myth #2: Put Off Carpet Cleaning as Long as You Can

What? Really? OK, a long time ago this was good advice. Carpets made before the introduction of 5th generation nylon material required harsh and highly alkaline chemicals to clean them. These chemicals left behind an awful, soapy residue that acted like a dirt magnet causing almost immediate re-soiling. The machines from that day belong in a museum of primitive technology. With today’s advanced materials, high-tech equipment and much friendlier chemicals, not only can you avoid quick re-soiling but you can extend your carpet’s life by getting a professional cleaning every 12 to 18 months.

Myth #3: Why Should I Clean It, It’s Not Dirty

Have you ever looked through a microscope at a small sample of everyday fabric? Trust me, if you haven’t, don’t; some things you just don’t want to see. Regular cleaning is necessary to remove unseen dirt, contaminants (ever wonder what happens to that “sneeze cloud”?), and allergens even when you can’t actually see them. Not only can this reduce the life of your carpet, it can build up and cause health problems! Regular vacuuming and a professional cleaning every 12 to 18 months, people. Or else I’ll post those microscope pictures…

Myth#4: Bleach. It Does a Carpet Good

Popular Myths about Carpet CleaningUm, no. No, it most certainly does not do a carpet good. While it may remove your stain, it can also remove your carpet’s color. Bleach is an oxidizer, sometimes called a stripper; oxidizers work by transferring oxygen to the fibers and changing the materials’ properties. Professional may use it on a stain that won’t come out with any other treatment, but we know how to do it and NOT lose your carpet’s color. Plus, if you’ve tried to spot-treat a stain with an ammonia-containing product, you could potentially create a serious, life-threatening reaction if you use bleach and there’s still some ammonia left in your carpet. It’s called Mustard Gas and you don’t want to be around it.

Myth #5: The Latest and Greatest “Product X” Takes Out Any Stain from Any Carpet

Oh sure! That really does work! And for $500,000,000.00, I’ve got a great bridge to sell you. Seriously, no matter what the infomercial says, there is no “one perfect solution” that will take every stain out of every carpet. Stains are unique (some are acidic, others alkaline, yet others biological) and each one of these requires a different approach. Without the correct treatment, that stain could become a permanent part of your décor. Unless, you’re really into Jackson Pollock, you won’t like the results. And this should not be taken to mean that I don’t like his work, so please, no hate mail.

Breathing Easy Thanks to Your Carpet

allergies and carpet cleaningMost people think the hardwood floors are the only way for people with allergies or asthma to be safe in their homes. Frankly, nothing could be farther from the truth. The horror stories about all the extra dust, pollen, and pet & insect dander, not to mention chemicals from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a thing of the past. Thanks to modern carpet technology, proper vacuuming, and a little thing called gravity, those who live with allergies and asthma can enjoy a deep plush or a nice Berber carpet, too.

Yes, carpet does collect dust and other allergens. But, that’s a good thing! As the dust and dander circulate through your home, gravity eventually brings them down. Once they land on your carpet, they are not merely collected, they are trapped. Your carpet’s fibers act like a filter of sorts, keeping most of the particles from getting airborne again. Once the offending allergens are trapped, regular vacuuming using a HEPA filter removes them once and for all.

Carpets made from natural fibers may set off certain allergies, of course. But a lot of the carpet available today is made from harmless material such as polyester, nylon, triexta, and olefin fibers. These materials make up many of today’s clothing and other everyday fabrics, too. A good suggestion is to test your allergies’ or asthma’s reaction to the material by buying a small runner or a piece of clothing before having the carpet installed.

Another bad rap that carpet caught over the years is that it’s a huge source of mold and VOCs, both of which are bad characters to have around when you’re asthmatic. However, mold requires two things to grow: nutrients and moisture. It is true that the dirt and dust trapped by your carpet can provide the necessary nutrients; but, if you keep it dry it is impossible for mold to grow on today’s synthetic carpets.

New studies show that while artificial materials do emit some level of VOCs, carpet is actually one of the lowest emitters. That “new carpet” smell, so obvious immediately after installation, and the low-level VOC emissions are actually harmless and dissipate within 48 to 72 hours after installation. Keeping your windows and doors open speeds up the process, too. For assistance in choosing the best material, check out the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label testing and certification program.

We’ll close this post with a little food for thought from a study published by the Swedish Statistical Central Bureau in the 1990s. Professors Roshan L. Shishoo and Alf Börjesson of the Swedish Institute of Fiber and Polymer Research stated that “while the use of carpet in Sweden had steadily decreased since 1975, the occurrences of allergic reactions in the general population had increased. [They] argue that the removal and decline of carpet usage did not mean improved conditions for allergic patients. On the contrary, they missed the advantages of carpet such as comfort, insulation, and noise reduction”. For more information, see their chart.

So why deprive yourself of all the good benefits of carpet – including allergy and asthma protection.